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Male Fertility Supplements

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a blog by Daniel A. Potter, M.D., HRC Fertility, May 3, 2011

I have been getting a lot of questions about male fertility supplements and whether or not they work or are worthwhile.

Although there are many different formulations currently on the market, the key ingredient common to most of these is some form of L-carnitine. Many studies have been published to demonstrate acetyl-L-carnitine improves sperm motility, and some show an increase in count and volume as well(1)(2)(3)(4).

Researchers at the University of Rome led by Dr. Andrea Lenzi demonstrated in a placebo controlled, double-blinded study that L-carnitine/acetyl-L-carnitine was effective in improving sperm motility.(5) In this study, men who took L-carnitine and acetyl l-carnitine had increases in sperm concentration, forward movement and total movement. The authors concluded that “combined treatment with L-carnitine and acetyl l-carnitine ... was effective in increasing sperm motility, especially in groups with lower baseline levels (of moving sperm)."

Metabolism studies imply that acetyl-L-carnitine (also referred to as ALCAR) is better absorbed than L-carnitine or L-carnitine fumarate and so is potentially up to 17 times more effective by weight. The exact mechanism of L-carnitine’s effect is not know with certainty. There is speculation that the motility effect is due to improved mitochondrial function. The mitchondria are the energy-generating organelles in cells. There is also some evidence that L-carnitine improves signal transduction at the testosterone receptor.

An additional study demonstrates that zinc and folic acid improve sperm motility and count in both fertile and infertile men.(6) Zinc’s role in sperm production and testosterone activity has been well described.(7)

Several studies also point to an important role for antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, as well as some B vitamins in normal sperm production, function and genetic integrity.(8)(9)

So, I say why not take a good male supplement in preparation for IVF/ICSI/PGD? Ideally it should be started 80 to 90 days and can be taken for up to six months prior to fertility treatment. Shorter courses may also be beneficial.


  1. Fertility and Sterility. 2005 83:355-361.
  2. Andrology. 2004 Sep-Oct;25(5):761-70.
  3. Drugs Under Experimental Clinical Research. 1995;21(4):157-9.
  4. Andrologia. 1994 May;26(3):155-9.
  5. Fertility and Sterility. 2004 June; 81:1578-84.
  6. Fertility and Sterility. 2002 March;77:491-8.
  7. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. 2009 Jun 30;106(26):10859-64.
  8. Human Reproduction. 2008 May;23(5):1014-22.
  9. Journal of Andrology. 2005 Jul-Aug;26(4):550-6.

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